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Sweden’s heroic king, Gustavus Adolphus

Posted in Famous battles, Historical articles, Royalty, War on Wednesday, 28 September 2011

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This edited article about Sweden originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 826 published on 12 November 1977.

Gustavus Adolphus, picture, image, illustration

Gustavus Adolphus by Dan Escott

Gustavus Adolphus, born in Stockholm on 9th December, 1594, was a remarkable man in many ways. Although he was a great warrior king, his battles were fought to preserve for his country the peace which he was trying to build up after years of impoverishing warfare.

At the age of 15, Gustavus showed such remarkable administrative ability that he was allowed to govern his own duchy of Vestmanland. When, in 1611, he ascended the throne of Sweden, he immediately made plans to end the futile wars which his country had been carrying on with the Danes and Russians.

Later, Gustavus Adolphus was forced to wage war against the Poles who were threatening Sweden’s security. From these campaigns he emerged as one of the cleverest military leaders of all time.

His victories were due to his ability as a tactician and his far-seeing methods of warfare. He also reorganised the Swedish forces so that they became a model for the armies of other nations.

Among his peaceful achievements was the country’s secondary school system.

On the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War (the last attempt of the Catholic powers of Europe to stamp out the Reformation). Gustavus Adolphus and his army went to the aid of the German Protestants. By doing this they demonstrated to all European Protestants that it was possible to defy the power of the Catholic Emperor.

The Swedes entered Germany and successfully fought their way west and south, until the enemy general, Wallenstein, managed to interpose his army between the Protestants and their Saxony base.

On 6th November, 1632, the two great armies closed in battle at Lützen.

At the height of the battle as the right wing of the Swedish cavalry reformed after a successful charge, the king looked towards the centre of his army’s formation. He saw, through the mist and smoke, that his infantry were being hard pressed. Shouting a command to his men, he wheeled his horse and spurred it towards the thick of the battle.

It was the last moment of a great king. A musket ball struck him from his horse and he died with the fight raging round him, not knowing that by the end of the day his forces would have achieved a tremendous victory.

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